When we think of parasitic worms (and who doesn't regularly think of parasitic worms?), those of us from wealthy countries see images of bloated bellies and and think of slimy creatures living in our gut. Something awful, rare and requiring immediate medical attention.
However, in most parts of the world, they are considered a "symptom" of childhood, and the rates of infection in many areas are over 70% - seventy percent! - causing pain, discomfort, inability to concentrate and, in some cases, even warranting surgery.
The good news is that there are safe, effective and cheap deworming tablets available. The bad news is that they are not getting to the kids (the kids are the ones who suffer the most with worms) who need them most.
So, I've been in Nigeria helping to implement a school-based deworming program for the past week. The key here is "school-based." Because the drugs are harmless even if a child does not have worms, inexpensive drugs are safely administered to entire schools in areas where intestinal worms are endemic.
Subsequent to deworming, attendance goes up, children are healthier and better able to learn and entire communities reap the benefit of a reduction in worm loads since a good proportion of these critters actually live in children's bellies. So, getting rid of them where they are living cuts the transmission cycle, and even neighbors who are not dewormed are less likely to be infected as a result of this campaign. What's not to love about that?.
A major part of the program is training the hundreds of teachers who will administer pills to thousands of children. The training is relatively simple. 1-2 teachers per school show up for classes and then spread the information to other teachers in their school who subsequently administer the drugs. So, one teacher training class for 30 schools can reach thousands of kids.
But that's not why I'm writing this post. I had a funny anecdote about the teacher training class, but I see now that the introduction it warranted is longer (possibly more interesting?) than the actual anecdote. You still want to hear it, right? OK.
So, at the start of each training session the trainers lay ground rules. Things like turning off your cell phone and paying attention. The standard stuff. But I was looking at the chalkboard of one session I attended and one of the ground rules stuck out to me.
See if you can find it:
OK. "No chorus answers" is a pretty appealing choice (and not sure why that should be discouraged, but anyway...), as you may have guessed from my title, the one that had me chuckling was "no executive sleeping."
The training I went to prior to this one had on it's list of rules what I thought read "no excessive dosing," which had me wondering if there was an acceptable level of dosing. But, no, it's "executive" sleeping or dosing.
What is this? Some kind of prohibition against professional sleeping? No sleeping while wear ties? What?
But, no. As you probably have guessed it's the kind of clandenstine sleeping "executives" do when they are stuck in endlessly boring meetings. They maintain the posture of listening but gently close their eyes and take a snooze.
I think this term is hilarious and my Nigerian colleagues found my reaction and questions equally hilarious. One of them insisted I take a picture of someone demonstrating the phenomenon. Here it is:
I guess fighting sleep and attempting to hide it in long meetings is one of those universal struggles that ties all humanity together as brethren. Yes, it's that deep. I love it.